The lion (Panthera leo) is a member of the family Felidae and one of four "big cats" in the genus Panthera. Reaching up to over 275 kg, it is the second-largest cat after the tiger. They currently exist in the wild in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with a critically-endangered remnant population in north-west India, having disappeared from North Africa, the Middle East and western Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene (about 10,000 years ago), the lion was the most widespread large land mammal beside man. They were found in most of Africa, much of Eurasia from western Europe to India and the Bering land bridge and in the Americas from Yukon to Peru.
Lions live some 10–14 years in the wild, while in captivity they can live over 20 years. The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of 30-50% over the past 20 years in its African range; populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not well-understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern.
Lions have been kept in menageries since Roman times and have been a key species sought after and exhibited in zoos the world over since the late 18th century. Zoos are co-operating worldwide in breeding programmes for the endangered Asiatic sub-species.
The individual above is Turkana, who was born in July 1996. He is upset with his twin sister, Mana, hence the snarling. Both of them can be seen at Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.
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